Well my friends, it’s gonna take more than a bag of chips and a couple of beers cure me of this one…
As is my custom when I don’t have my kid, I stopped by Ye Olde Tavern last night for a couple of beverages on the way home. The usual suspects were there talking about the usual things. I ran into a particularly good friend of mine and after re-hashing what we’ve been up over a couple of rounds, it was getting time to go. Since he was walking and only lives a couple of blocks from me, I decided to give him a ride home.
We stopped to get some smokes and I got back in the car, he looked at me and said something along the lines of “Dude, I got something to tell ya.”
Let me preface this, in my circle of friends, conversations usually don’t start that way. We tend to fire from the hip and do each other a favor of sparing each other the bullshit. I guess we’re sorta of old fashioned in that way. It doesn’t matter when we saw each other last, it could be a day, it could be a month, but we always shake each other’s hands when we greet and when we depart. Nobody kisses somebody else’s wife or girlfriendbehind their back or any other kinda shit like that. We look out for each other, not in the volume of phone calls exchanged but more like an extended family. We don’t pry into each other’s lives, if something’s really wrong, we expect to be told about it and not have to ask. It works well for us.
That’s why his comment kinda caught me off guard. Usually, if you can’t tell somebody something over a couple of drinks, it ain’t getting told.
He’s a professor of geography at Ohio State University. He even got tenured there not too long ago. He wife just recently landed a teaching position at the same place and is on her way to her masters. There isn’t a nicer couple in the world.
I was expecting something really bad, (divorce, cancer?) or something really good (pregnancy?). What I got was something in-between.
“I’m moving to Arizona and I wanted you to be the first to know? You’re the best friend I have around here and I thought you deserved to hear it from me before I told anybody else”
It seems both he and his wife had been entertaining offers from Arizona State and then finally agreed to accept one of them. My little circle of friends had known this might be a possibility but we kept quiet about it. No use trying to predict the future.
I don’t know if he looked happy or sad. Probably, like most things you’re getting ready leave behind, it was a mixture of both. We talked a little about opportunities and how seldom they come along and we’ve both let a couple slip through our grasp. We reminisced a little about what we’ve shared as friends over the last five or six years. He invited me into his house and I talked briefly with his wife, I put on my brave face and wished them all the best. Even though he won’t be leaving until the end of the year, it seems part of him might have already left.
It wasn’t until I got home that I look off the brave face. Me, a grown man, started to shed tears like a lost boy. Were they selfish tears? Probably some of them but for the most part, I hope all works out for the best.
Over the coming months, I’m sure there will be many glasses raised and many toasts offered. There will be going away parties and assorted other things like barbecues and such to mark the occasion.
In the meantime though, all I can say is “Godspeed Professor”. I’m a better man for knowing you and hopefully someday you can say the same about me. For right now though, the stool to my left never looked so empty.